The criminal justice system is a collection of public and private institutions designed to deal with those accused of crimes and those who have been found guilty of them. Academia, law enforcement, forensic services, the court, and prisons all have a role in the system. These pillars are built to uphold the principles of legal justice (Justice & Meares, 2014). Due process is the outcome of combining the responsibilities of the government to guarantee and defend citizens’ rights with those of the people who have asserted such rights. Individuals involved in the CJ system must make a sustained effort to provide and preserve these fundamental rights. Consequently, these professionals must abide by the CJ system’s ethical standards and demonstrate a strong sense of character integrity at all times. To achieve this, a reliable code of professional ethics is used, which indicates competence, dependability, accountability, and general trustworthiness when correctly applied. This paper looks at the three main components of the CJ system: law enforcement, court, and prisons.
Issues/Problems Faced by Each Component of The CJ System
A key issue is the lack of transparency in police operations and the unavailability of police documents. Police officers are fully aware that their department’s phones, emails, text messages, and other communications are open to the general public. The only way to know for sure whether they are lying is to inquire about their phones. Due to this, whatever information a public worker divulges in the course and scope of their duties is at risk. On the other hand, the courts are moving in the direction of making all information, regardless of where it came from, a matter of public record (Wallace et al., 2021).
The concept of reasonable expectation of privacy is rapidly fading from use in legal discussions. As a result, devices may be subpoenaed if they include exculpatory information and may help the prosecution. If that is not enough of a concern, consider adding body-worn cameras to the mix, along with the varying disclosure rules that go along with them. Throughout 2020 and beyond, there will be a rise in media and public demand for more information on-field activities. Competent police chiefs are already holding internal conversations about the possibility of greater openness and developing rules and procedures that reflect the same. Since the truth has been revealed, the public’s patience has worn thin.
American courts have a long way to go before they can provide equal justice for all its citizens. However, courts are often strapped for resources, both financially and in terms of people, making it difficult to adopt and manage legal technology (Baldwin, Eassey, & Brooke, 2020). Even though many judges and courts lack access to cutting-edge technology and enough support personnel, many adopt it. As a result, many judges worry about plaintiffs who lack Big Law’s necessary financial and technical means.
Few times in public safety history have use-of-force rules and procedures in prisons have been the subject of as much criticism and scrutiny as they have been in the past year. It is becoming more common for states to pass legislation that affects the way law enforcement uses force. This includes legislation that pertains to the use of force in a detention facility. In this high-risk area, correctional officials must at the very least evaluate and, if required, modify their rules and procedures. There are correctional facilities that would be smart to adopt rules requiring employees to intervene and report when they see another staff member using force in violation of agency policy (Franco-Paredes et al., 2021).
Policies for circumstances when de-escalation methods may be used should include them. In addition, rules on spontaneous use of force should be taken into account rather than planned or deliberate use of force events such as cell extractions or reactions to more enormous disturbances like riots. Any policy considerations should include the usage and retention of fixed or handheld video footage of all instances involving the use of force. Additionally, policy reassessment and modification are pointless unless all employees understand and abide by policy’s limits. A person’s ability to effectively use power, record instances of force usage, and know about the agency’s policy on the force are all critical.
The job of a correctional officer has always been strenuous on the body, mind, and soul. In the last year, just showing up for work has been an act of courage for everyone, but particularly for those on the front lines. As a result of COVID-19 quarantines, staff shortages, longer shifts, and anti-criminal justice sentiment being aired on television, it should come as no surprise that correctional officers are under more stress than they have ever been (Hansen & Lory, 2020). They have experienced the death of a colleague and are constantly worried about being infected or bringing the coronavirus home to family members. We must therefore develop genuine and trustworthy programs to maintain a mentally healthy workforce and assist those who are not. Instead of calling our employees damaged due to worries and frailties, we must recognize their concerns and shortcomings. Leaders, administrators, and supervisors must also be aware of their mental health issues and take steps to address them. The pandemic has given us a chance to begin addressing this impending catastrophe far before then by addressing many of our profession’s long-ignored mental health issues.
Over 2.1 million convicts are now in US prisons because of the COVID-19 epidemic (Maruschak & Minton, 2020). There will be 5.5 times as many individuals in jail with the COVID-19 infection by June 6, 2020, and a rate of mortality thrice higher than the general population when adjusted for age (Saloner, Parish, Ward, DiLaura, & Dolovich, 2020). Because of overcrowding, inadequate mask supply, low sanitation access, and limited or delayed medical care, carceral facilities are hotbeds for the COVID-19 virus’ rapid spread and high morbidity and mortality.
Those in carceral settings have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to living circumstances, regulations, and procedures often at odds with public health standards. Furthermore, those infected face a higher chance of developing severe COVID-19 illness. COVID-19 may also affect individuals with specific underlying medical problems, and the prevalence of the chronic disease is exceptionally high among those who are incarcerated. In addition, research has shown that imprisoned individuals in the United States had a higher prevalence of certain diseases that raise the risk of severe COVID-19 infection, such as hypertension, cervical cancer, and liver disease
Due to these vulnerabilities, public health professionals have advocated for the allocation and distribution of safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccinations to prioritize imprisoned people ethically and fairly. According to epidemiological data and theoretical models, infection management strategies in carceral settings affect the transmission of COVID-19 in the surrounding population. Ex-offenders frequently return to communities heavily burdened by COVID-19 because of the disproportionate criminalization and imprisonment of poor, Black, Indigenous, Latins, or disabled people. Combining early vaccination in carceral settings with substantial reductions in jail and prison populations is a critical approach (Barsky, Reinhart, Farmer, & Keshavjee, 2021).
Hope for an end to the epidemic is bolstered by the impending introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine, which raises ethical questions. Every state’s priority list should include imprisoned individuals by any fair criterion. Prisons and jails have mostly failed to decrease their populations by enough to stop the spread of the virus despite the dangers of close quarters and the high prevalence of previous health problems among those imprisoned. I think that priority should be given to vaccinating incarcerated and correctional personnel against COVID-19 (Jung, 2021). Vaccination of correctional personnel should not be considered adequate to halt the spread of COVID-19 in prisons.
There will be pressure on governors and state health authorities to decarcerate those in prison. It is unacceptable for the government to act in this way when it has a responsibility to protect the health of the people under its care and limit the spread of the virus where it is most likely to spread rapidly. Decarceration should be implemented in prisons and jails. Public health and medical authorities have been warning since March that a dramatic reduction in prison and jail populations is required to safeguard imprisoned individuals.
Part C-Policies to Assure Health and Safety
As an administrator of the prisons and correction component of the CJ system, these are the measures I would take to ensure the safety of my employees:
Impose Strict Health Measures
- Remind employees to remain at home if they are feeling under the weather.
- Increase the frequency with which you clean all high-touch locations.
- Reduce prisoner mobility both inside and between facilities as much as feasible.
Establish Clean and Sanitary Conditions
- COVID-19 prevention should be taught to inmates in a culturally and linguistically relevant manner.
- Improve prison ventilation and make use of air conditioning.
- Provide free soap, hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves to inmates and employees.
- Increase the number of hand-washing facilities and running water available in jails.
Decrease the Inmate Population
- The elderly and medically fragile inmates who do not pose a danger to the community should be released, as should convicts who have served at least 75% of their sentence for nonviolent crimes.
- Reduce the total number of inmates to prevent congestion and promote social isolation.
- Reducing the number of individuals on probation and parole and the amount of time they spend in jail is a priority.
Although 2020 presented some of the most unusual difficulties in our profession’s history, we managed to get through it. The criminal justice system has been altered due to the pandemic owing to major policy changes, different crime patterns and alteration of criminal justice responses. This is a tribute to the hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and professionalism of those who serve in our nation’s prisons and jails. Without a doubt, we showed the country what we already knew: correctional officers are among the world’s most admirable individuals. We learned a lot, and we will use that knowledge to overcome the obstacles we face in the year ahead.
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Barsky, B. A., Reinhart, E., Farmer, P., & Keshavjee, S. (2021). Vaccination plus Decarceration—Stopping Covid-19 in Jails and Prisons. New England Journal of Medicine, 384(17), 1583–1585.
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